I am appalled by the decision of Health Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek to ban fast food ad on TV in order to curb the "rise of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes and hypertension" among kids and the Malaysian public in general. The Malaysian Medical Association is also recommending 'sinful' tax on food of this kind. Read more:
- Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia Mahu Haramkan Iklan Makanan Segera Di Media
- RTM sedia haramkan iklan makanan segera
The decision shows how we always got it wrong on not tackling the root of the problems when it comes to promote better lifestyle. These are probable root causes in this matter (not comprehensive):
- The unhealthy/excessive trans fat or other forms of fat intake, sugar, salt in food
- Frequent food intakes
- Late food intake
- Higher sugar level in food and beverages
- Lack of exercise
There are few drawbacks from the move on banning fast food advertisements:
- Local media industry will be impacted by this move. They are lots of ads money lost from the banned of tobbacco products ads and sports sponsorship
- Does the ban of tobacco products on TV actually reduce the numbers of smokers?
- Does instant food such as Maggi Mee, Nescafe 3-in-1, Coffee-mate, Ali Cafe 3-in-1, etc. fall under the same category? If the government thinks otherwise, I think they are making bigger mistake!
- Hypothetically, if fast food ban will improve our lifestyle; let's consider these:
- Motorcycles ads should be banned as many motorists are killed on the road every year.
- "In Malaysia, about 60% of traffic fatalities involve motorized 2-wheelers" - Asian Development Bank
- However, hats off to the Transportation Ministry on the right campaigns on the importance of helmets and stop at red lights
- Credit cards ads should be banned as the nation relies more on plastic money and becoming a "debt nation"
- Only thin models or personalities are allowed to appear on TV as they are good role model for our children healthy lifestyle (and thus limiting TV appearances of horizontally challenged people)
- Food outlets such as Mamak's 24-hr joint should be closed by 10 pm
- Government should no longer serve food during festive season's open houses as they promote excessive food intake
- Ban of buffet in hotels or restaurants during Ramadhan for the unhealthy amount of food served
- Does this also apply to our local grown food operators; nasi lemak at Marrybrown; unhealthy-fattening cheescakes at Secret Recipe? I think all they have in mind now is ban on the famous Colonel Sanders and Golden Arches on TV!!!
In some way, this shows that our government wants to improve our lifestyle but totally got it wrong in its policy.
Here are my recommendations:
- Ban of trans fat ingredients or food in restaurants (not just fast food). New York and Canada got it right on this one! Read New York Times article "New York Bans Most Trans Fats in Restaurants"
- Educate public on trans fat intake and its risks
- Enforce food and drink operators to explicitly publish certified nutritional information of food served
- All ministry office or government offices to have gymnasium of recreational centers or give tax breaks for private sector's offices to open such facility at workplace
- In a land where our people already thinking about what to eat during lunch at breakfast and greet each other (same is true among Malays, Chinese, and Indian) "Dah Makan?" "Jom Makan", there should be paradigm shift in our culture on food
In conclusion, our health ministry focuses on the wrong preventive campaign and playing the "blame is it all" to a particular industry when there are more proactive ways of promoting healthy lifestyle.